Trans Eurasia travel

Your virtual guide to Eurasia! Let's travel together!

Made in the Tamdyr

'Come and watch a goat being slaughtered in your honour!' With this irresistible offer from my Turkmen hosts at a small house in the Kugitang Nature Reserve, I was introduced to the Turkmen dish known as tamdyrlama, literally something 'made in the tamdyr'.

The bleating goat was expertly despatched, a bowl of its blood brought to the family's tethered dog, who happily lapped it up. The goat was hung up on a tree branch; its intestines disgorged into a bowl with a single cut of the knife. It was then dissected into large slabs of meat, each liberally sprinkled with salt. Smaller pieces of the goat's meat were mixed in a metal bowl with tomatoes, onions, potatoes and cabbages. Salt and chilli peppers were added, together with pieces of dried plants from a mysterious-looking plastic bottle. I was told that these were herbs collected from the mountains. The contents of the metal bowl were poured into the goat's stomach. This was then tied shut with a loop of metal wire. More meat was cut up into chunks, and placed into a metal pot. To this was added vegetables and hot water, making a soup. Further loops of wire were tied around the handles of the pot.

The family's conical clay-oven, tamdyr, had meanwhile been fired up with kindling, and was burning fiercely. The soup pot was carefully placed in the bottom of the tamdyr. The loop of wire around the goat's stomach was tied to a metal pole, which was balanced across the top of the oven, leaving the stomach to dangle into the furnace. Two large cuts of meat were hung onto another metal pole, and likewise suspended into the fire. Sprigs of mint and juniper were draped around these, to add flavour. Our host then sealed up both the top and side openings of the tamdyr with wet mud. He placed an inverted cooking pot on the top of the sealed oven, and a small gobbet of mud on the upturned base of the pot. When that mud had dried, he said, our meal would be ready.